Peter Kann, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and chairman of Dow Jones, had a wonderful piece in The Wall Street Journal that I encourage you to read. Noting that CNN’s pre-election programming had names like “Broken Borders,” “Broken Government,” “Broken Politics,” he says the media, too, are in need of some mending.
Because it’s that special time of year when people make lists, he lists 10 current trends in media that ought to disturb us.
Each of the trends is general to all media, but I think more than a few should be heeded by those who cover religion, such as the problems and pitfalls inherent in pack journalism and the exaggerated tendency toward pessimism. Here are a few others:
The issue of conflict and context. On most issues most Americans are not on polar extremes. On abortion, for example, most seek a sensible center. Where is that center reflected in media coverage that mainly portrays rabid feminists or irate pro-life activists? Balance is not achieved by the talk show format of two extremists yelling at each other. And how many of us recognize our own communities from their depiction on local TV news shows — a nonstop montage of mayhem, murder, rape, arson, child molestation and more?
Social orthodoxy, or political correctness. These are reflected in a media whose job is not to parrot prevailing fashions, but to question, probe and thereby challenge them. Businessmen are not, by definition, greedy, and environmentalists, by definition, saintly. Third World poverty is not, by definition, a result of overpopulation as opposed to inane economic policies. And so on.
Vitally important tangent here. I believe that men are more likely to list and rank things than women are. I have no scientific evidence to support this claim save many discussions with men about, say, their “Seven Top Non-Alcoholic Beverages,” “Every Girl I Ever Kissed, 1987-96,” “Top 10 Christmas Films That Are Not Actually About Christmas” and “Top Five Reasons Ladainian Tomlinson is not as good as Walter Payton.”